Review: Hall & Collins Signature Echo

Hank Marvin is cited as an influence by nearly every British guitarist that came of age in the 1960s—from Jeff Beck to George Harrison to Tony Iommi.
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Hank Marvin is cited as an influence by nearly every British guitarist that came of age in the 1960s—from Jeff Beck to George Harrison to Tony Iommi. Marvin summoned super-vibey twang-bar-inflected tones from his Fiesta Red ’59 Fender Stratocaster on “Apache,” “Man of Mystery,” “Kon Tiki,” and many other classic instrumentals, aided by various mechanical echo machines.

Charlie Hall and John Collins’ Signature Echo (approximately $860) is an analog-digital hybrid designed to emulate the sound of ultra-rare vintage echo units, with special emphasis on Marvin’s sounds. In fact, several presets bear the names of Hank Marvin & the Shadows tunes, and a chart in the manual lists the optimal presets for playing dozens more.

The U.K.-built Signature Echo is constructed of heavy-duty steel and could no doubt withstand years of rigorous gigging. That is, unless its size and weight dissuaded you from taking it on the road. Even its 1,000mA/12VAC external power supply is bulky. Then again, toting it around compares favorably with lugging a bunch of old tube echo units. The Signature’s controls are simple and intuitive to use. In addition to the Echo On/Off footswitch, there are Patch Down and Patch Up footswitches, which step through presets in single increments when pressed once, and scroll rapidly when held. They also do double duty as -/+ buttons in Edit mode. There are five recessed rotary controls for Dry Level, Echo Drive, Echo Output, Feedback, and Wow & Flutter, and preset names and other information are displayed on a large LCD.

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The Signature’s 64 factory presets are organized according to the type of machine they simulate, including the Meazzi Echomatic 1, 2, and Model J (which recorded to magnetic wheels); the Binson Echorec 2 (which recorded to a magnetic drum); and the Meazzi Factotum Special, Vox Long Tom, Roland RE-301, Pearl Echo Orbit EO-301, and Klemt NG51 tape-echo machines. There are also 64 User preset slots. A major part of the Signature’s magic is derived from its solid-state emulations of old-school tube preamp circuitry, and the distortion and compression characteristic of magnetic oxide recording systems (variable via the Echo Drive control). Each preset was carefully crafted by combining precise amounts of these qualities, wow and flutter, head spacing, and numerous other factors, though you can also edit most of the parameters to create entirely new effects. Editing is somewhat tedious, however, requiring lots of switch and button pushing (no USB connectivity or other nods to modernity here).

The Signature Echo is a singular pedal with a glorious sound that also responds beautifully to playing dynamics, much like the vintage tube echo units I’ve owned in the past. The painstakingly emulated multi-head configurations alone make it uniquely seductive. If you dig old-school echoes, you’ll find a world of wonder residing in this burgundy box—even if you’ve never heard of Hank Marvin.

Kudos Fabulous old-school echo effects transport you to the ’60s.
Concerns Bulky.